Demonstrators who vandalise war memorials could be jailed for up to ten years under proposed plans as MPs look to make it easier to prosecute demonstrators who desecrate sacred monuments.
The plans being considered by ministers come as at risk statues – including the Cenotaph, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela – were covered up ahead of predicted clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and those in the ‘pro-statue’ camp this weekend.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Attorney General Suella Braverman are believed to be discussing the proposals after last week’s unrest left some of the country’s statues and monuments targeted by vandals.
The monument to Britain’s greatest war-time leader was covered in graffiti last weekend that said Churchill ‘was a racist’ while a protester attempted to set a union flag on fire on the Cenotaph.
Mr Johnson blasted the ‘absurd and shameful’ attacks on the statue of Churchill and said the UK ‘cannot lie about its history’ as Sadiq Khan was accused of ‘surrendering’ the capital’s streets ‘to the mob’ after he ordered the boarding up of the monument to Britain’s greatest prime minister and the nearby Cenotaph.
Anti-racism protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and rolled him into a harbour on Sunday.
An anti-racist rally and a pro-statue counter-protest descended into chaos yesterday. Pictured: One demonstrator kicks another at a protest at the Cenotaph
Demonstrators who vandalise war memorials could be jailed for up to ten years under proposed plans as MPs look to make it easier to prosecute demonstrators who desecrate sacred monuments. Pictured: Demonstrations at the boarded-up Churchill monument yesterday
Mounted police were seen in an altercation with protesters who throw bottles and cans at them next to the boarded up statue of Nelson Mandela in London yesterday
Elsewhere in the country tens of thousands gathered at anti-racism protests that passed off largely peacefully although clashes also erupted in Bristol (pictured) and Newcastle
The Nelson Mandela statue before and after it was covered up by large boards to protect it from graffiti during clashes this week
The monument to Britain’s greatest war-time leader Winston Churchill was covered in graffiti last weekend (left) that said Churchill ‘was a racist’ while a protester attempted to set a union flag on fire on the Cenotaph. It has since been boarded up
The plans under discussion could also protect the effigies of some of the country’s most contentious figures, The Sunday Telegraph reports.
The Desecration of War Memorials Bill – which makes it illegal to damage any physical tribute to those who died in the war – was this week backed by 125 Tory MPs. Backbenchers Jonathan Gullis and James Sunderland are set to present the bill to the Commons on June 23.
The anti-racist rally and a pro-statue counter-protest descended into hooliganism driven by a hard core of violent activists on both sides yesterday. Pictured: Clashes in Trafalgar Square today
A man was beaten to a bloody pulp in Trafalgar Square yesterday as the Black Lives Matter protests turned violent shortly before the 5pm curfew kicked in
A group of men carry an injured man away after he was allegedly attacked by some of the crowd of protesters in Southbank near Waterloo station
A man, whose face was covered in blood, was seen lying on the floor near Waterloo Station in London as the protests turned violent
Boris Johnson spoke out against what he described as the ‘racist thuggery’ seen during demonstrations yesterday after facing criticism for his response to the unrest this week
Police fought to maintain control in Trafalgar Square yesterday amid both Black Lives Matter and pro-statue protests in London today
A man identified as a far-right protester was carried to safety as animosity was briefly set aside on a day of clashes in London between rival groups and police last night
Police chiefs imposed the 5pm curfew on all demonstrations in a bid to quell the unrest seen throughout yesterday. Pictured: A man is carried to safety by protesters
Clashes between far-right thugs, Black Lives Matter supporters and riot police erupted in Trafalgar Square and at Waterloo station yesterday as approximately 1,300 troublemakers remained in central London after a 5pm curfew set by police. Pictured: A man is helped by police near Waterloo Station
Police formed a barricade as demonstrators faced off with officers at Trafalgar Square yesterday. The tourist attraction has become a flash point for violence between a small minority of protesters
A rowdy group of far-right protesters were seen yelling and shouting in Trafalgar Square as the anti-racist rally and a pro-statue counter-protests continued yesterday
Police officers clashed with demonstrators in central London as large groups fled Trafalgar Square and headed to Hyde Park yesterday
A man was arrested by police officers outside Waterloo Station yesterday as clashes between far-right thugs, Black Lives Matter supporters and riot police erupted
Yesterday’s demonstrations saw clashes between far-right thugs, Black Lives Matter supporters and riot police in Trafalgar Square and at Waterloo station as approximately 1,300 troublemakers remained in central London after a 5pm curfew set by police.
Police chiefs imposed the 5pm curfew on all demonstrations in a bid to quell the unrest seen throughout the day as the anti-racist rally and a pro-statue counter-protest descended into hooliganism driven by a hard core of violent activists on both sides.
Videos from the protest showed hooligans who had joined the pro-statue demonstration attacking police, before clashes broke out between BLM activists and the far-right faction in Trafalgar Square.
After the groups were driven out of Trafalgar Square at 5pm, the clashes spilled over to Waterloo station where a group of BLM activists were filmed beating a lone white man accused of being a member of a far right group.
Swathes of counter-protesters hurled abuse at Black Lives Matters demonstrators during clashes in Trafalgar Square yesterday
A man was arrested by police near Waterloo Bridge during clashes between far-right thugs, Black Lives Matter supporters and riot police yesterday
Boris Johnson spoke out against what he described as the ‘racist thuggery’ seen during demonstrations yesterday after facing criticism for his response to the unrest this week.
The Prime Minister, who previously urged protesters to avoid the demonstrations all together – wrote on Twitter: ‘Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law.
‘These marches and protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.’
Elsewhere in the country tens of thousands gathered at anti-racism protests that passed off largely peacefully although clashes also erupted in Bristol and Newcastle.
Met Police tonight confirmed that more than 100 people were arrested during yesterday’s protest for offences including breach of the peace, violent disorder, assault on officers, possession of an offensive weapon, possession of class A drugs, and drunk and disorder.
Priti Patel has condemned the ‘unacceptable thuggery’ and said the perpetrators would face the ‘full force of the law’.
The Home Secretary tweeted a video of the affray and wrote: ‘Throughly (sic) unacceptable thuggery. Any perpetrators of violence or vandalism should expect to face the full force of the law.
‘Violence towards our police officers will not be tolerated. Coronavirus remains a threat to us all. Go home to stop the spread of this virus and save lives.’
A protester was seen attempting to burn a flag at the cenotaph in Whitehall, London
Ms Patel also slammed a picture of a yob seen urinating next to a memorial created in honour of PC Keith Palmer who was killed in the Westminster terror attack.
Armed only with a baton and pepper spray, PC Keith Palmer was stabbed to death by terrorist Khalid Masood on March 22, 2017. He was awarded a posthumous George Medal for his bravery in confronting the killer.
Among those shaming the man is MP Tobias Ellwood, who gave first aid to the police officer as he lay dying outside Westminster.
He took to Twitter to share his disgust at the shocking photograph, describing his actions as ‘abhorrent’.
In a media clip, Ms Patel said yesterday: ‘We are in an unprecedented public health emergency, and I have said every single day, as have the police around the country and in London, that these protests, these gatherings, are illegal and we have been discouraging them.
‘Secondly, we have seen a small minority behave in extreme thuggery and violent behaviour today.
‘That is simply unacceptable and the individuals that are basically putting the safety of our police officers and the safety of the public at risk will expect to face the full force of the law.
‘We have seen some shameful scenes today including the desecration of PC Keith Palmer’s memorial in Parliament, in Westminster square, and quite frankly that is shameful, that is absolutely appalling and shameful.
‘And I think, you know, my final remark very much is is that we live in a tolerant country but racism, any form of intolerance and violence is simply not acceptable.’
Ms Patel added: ‘My message to people today, and my message to anybody that wants to protest, is simply please do not.’